Credit where it’s due

This has been the most productive Congress in a half-century

When future historians look back on this session of Congress, they will say it was the most productive in half a century. And they will ask why voters were so unhappy with it.

The answer, of course, is the troubled economy. Voters are blaming the Democratic Congress and President Obama for their economic worries. It doesn’t help that the president hasn’t done a good job of marketing his successes, and that Republicans are doing everything they can to discredit him.

Also, it will take years for the full effects of two of his signal achievements, the health-care overhaul and the Wall Street accountability act, to be felt.

Every indication is that the $814 billion stimulus program kept the nation from sinking into full depression and saved millions of jobs, but “Americans still see themselves in a ditch,” as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer put it. Following Republican rhetoric, many are accusing Obama of raising taxes and expanding government.

But Obama hasn’t raised taxes; he’s lowered them. One-third of the stimulus program took the form of tax deductions—$800 for the average couple. Another third went for unemployment and Medicaid to handle the increased need. The final third went to the infrastructure work being done all around the country. No expensive new government programs or bureaucracies have been created.

In addition, the president has signed into law numerous other significant bills. He’s made college loans more affordable; established new protections for credit-card users; made it easier for women to challenge pay discrimination; increased federal regulation of tobacco products; cracked down on waste in Pentagon weapons acquisitions; given businesses tax incentives to hire unemployed workers; provided tax credits for first-time homebuyers; and helped rejuvenate the auto industry with the Cash for Clunkers program and by propping up GM and Chrysler.

We’re not happy with everything this president and Congress have done—or failed to do, such as passing an energy bill—but we understand that politics is the art of the possible. Given the amount of Republican obstructionism, it’s remarkable that they have accomplished as much as they have.